Letter to the Editor

Stirring memories

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Dear Editor,

Coleen Williams, who covers the evening news for ABC TV out of Kearney, stirred up memories for me. She interviewed a friend on the island of Oahu in Hawaii. They were discussing the tsunami that had traveled there due to Japan's recent earthquake.

In 1906, my grandfather, Edward Hancock, boarded a steamship in California and went to the Sandwich Islands, now Hawaii. The ship refueled with coal after entering a large natural port later known as Pearl Harbor.

James Cook, the explorer, arrived in the Hawaiian islands in 1778 and named them the Sandwich Islands after John Montague, the Earl of sandwich.

My grandfather spent about 10 days in the islands and then endured a rough passage on the steamer. It rolled violently on the waters of the Pacific on its way to New Zealand. He was the only passenger who wasn't seasick.

In his journal, he described the Maori people as being much like the Hawaiians. As a missionary for the Mormon Church, he quickly learned about their customs and tried to speak their language.

From 1925 to 1928, my father, Ted Hancock, also served as a Mormon missionary in New Zealand. He learned to speak Maori and to read it.

Settlers from other parts of the world had a tremendous influence on the Maori people and the Hawaiians. My father observed that the older generation clung to the old ways. Their children preferred to speak English and adopted new customs.

Today "The Spirit of Aloha" is making a comeback. At Laie on the island of Oahu in 2010, 35 million people visited the Polynesian Cultural Center. 2,500 students from Brigham Young University of Hawaii (from 70 countries) are contributing to the rejuvenation of the Polynesian Culture. They volunteer their time to the Cultural Center. Many of them perform dances, sing songs, dramatize stories and tell about the history of the Polynesians.

They are preserving the heritage of Fiji, Tonga, Hawaii, Samoa, New Zealand and Tahiti.

References: The Journal of Edward Hancock, Recollections of Ted Hancock, the Internet, Deseret Church News, March 5, 2011, World Book Encyclopedia 1972.

Helen Ruth Arnold,


P.S. As a child, I learned some Maori words from my father and performed some Hawaiian dances.

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